Tuesday, January 16, 2024

"Up is Down, Red is Green, Love is Hate." We are doing it to ourselves.

For many decades, blogger and journalist Kevin Drum has sought out data to counter the latest feeling- and anecdote-driven narrative. Many of his readers are pretty thoughtful, but now, like much of the internet, the comment section is often overwhelmed with misinformation based on anger and despair.

Recently, Kevin had a series of posts based on actual data that met with sadly predictable negative reactions. For example:

Unemployment is the lowest it has been in most people’s lifetime. 

They’re all shit jobs! 

(Republicans: Inflation is high because workers are too greedy.)

Even adjusted for inflation, wages are up.

We’ll never own a home!  

Last year was great for the economy.

Cage free laws are making eggs even more expensive! 

(That is not a joke – a real comment.)

We live in the richest country ever.

Climate change (robots / disease) will kill us all!

I tried to figure out what news, if actually true, might possibly be seen as unequivocally good. But then I could hear the nattering nabobs of negativity responding:

Last year, more people found true love than ever before.

Love is the opiate of the masses! 

How can anyone love when the world is going to hell?

Then, a few hours after I ran that thought experiment, I came across this in John Green’s The Anthropocene Reviewed:

I can't find a point of falling in love, which is just a desperate attempt to stave off the loneliness that you can never truly solve for, because you are always alone.

John wrote that as an example of his thinking when suffering from severe clinical depression

That is what we’ve become.

I honestly believe those of us very online – liberals and conservatives alike – are driving ourselves mad with negativity and fear. The world is far from perfect, but human life is, on average, better than ever, especially for someone who has the time and resources to be online quite a bit. 

More Drum:

There's always something. But here in the real world, GDP is up, employment is strong, wages are up, inflation is over, the abortion rate is down, teen pregnancy is down, crime is down, cigarette smoking is down, racism is down, teen bullying is down, the divorce rate is down, education is in good shape, homeownership is higher than in the 1980s, US universities are the best in the world, America owns the global software market, the US military is by far the world's strongest, and American workers are among the best paid in the world.


  1. Be aware of this negativity bias.
  2. Don’t feed the Doom Beast.

"The world is bad. The world was much worse. The world can be much better.

But we have to actually want to make it better and work to make it better. 

Constant complaints don't make things better. They make things worse. 

We can each make a stand for positive facts and hopeful reality, and by doing so make the world better. Otherwise, the negativity will become even more entrenched and a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

More, including a modification to the maternal mortality section of TBTSNBN, as well as a graphical representation of the increasing negativity in the news, plus actual data about housing expenses. See here for an actual good comment section (and a focus on Winning Elections).

Please feel free to share this.


Anonymous said...

I especially like your connection to John Green’s comment (isn’t the Anthropocene reviewed brilliant?) very insightful.

Matt Ball said...

For me, Anthropocene works better listened to (e.g., as a podcast). Like David Sedaris' books are much funnier listened to. IMHO.